Goose Creek rejects mask mandate

Berkeley County News

GOOSE CREEK, S.C. (WCBD) – On Thursday, Goose Creek City Council met to discuss potentially requiring the wearing of face masks within city limits.

Those in favor of the order cited rising COVID-19 numbers in locally and statewide, and said that if the trajectory continues, they fear setbacks to the reopening that is currently underway. Returning to a stay at home order would be detrimental to the local economy, and schools not being able to restart would be an additional blow. They see a mask requirement as one of the only proactive measures that can be taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Members acknowledged some of the arguments against masks, but ultimately acknowledged that based on guidance provided by the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the benefits of wearing a mask far outweigh the negatives. Additionally, they cited recent studies conducted in Italy that showed mask wearing to significantly reduce the rate of infection within the population.

One thing that caused hesitation among some members is the lack of state and federal guidance. Although state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell acknowledged that a statewide order would be effective, Governor McMaster has yet to act. One member said that while she wears a mask and is in favor of wearing a mask, she wishes the state would’ve taken the lead, and noted that governors in nearby North Carolina and Virginia have done just that. Furthermore, residents traveling locally amongst different jurisdictions would make the order difficult to mandate. Some said that without a cohesive order on the state level, the point is moot.

While some felt uncomfortable mandating the order, they acknowledged the need for masks, and said that they supported the wearing of masks. One council member suggested giving businesses the ability to require customers to wear masks, as opposed to a blanket order requiring all citizens wear masks at all times, which they felt went way too far.

Another concern was the logistics of enforcing the order, specifically, can it be enforced by police? How would the police enforce it? What would be the repercussions for not wearing a mask? One member likened a mask order to the city’s order prohibiting people from smoking in restaurants: the restaurant owner can ask the customer to leave, then call the police to forcibly remove the customer if s/he refuses to leave. That customer is free to drive to a different jurisdiction that does not have the same order and smoke inside of a restaurant there, but at least council has done its part to reduce the burden on public health in their jurisdiction.

An alternative suggestion was issuing a resolution asking and encouraging people to wear masks, which would not put such an additional burden on law enforcement.

A counterpoint to the arguments of overreach and overburdening law enforcement was that it is the job of the body politic to protect the welfare of the people: in this case, some members felt that a mask is the best tool for achieving that end. However many members agreed that the notion of requiring masks outside, and ticketing those without masks could be excessive.

A main point of concern for members seemed to be the haste with which the proposal was brought before council, with members noting on multiple occasions that they would like more time to research, debate, and evaluate the proposal.

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